Bridging Cultures Institute 2002

Diversity and Evolution (Anne Dalke)

Remember when we were searching for "science in the news" last week, and we discovered the snake head

It is the logo for today's discussion, and here's what it looks like...

We'll get back to it in a bit, after we've recalled...

I. Embedded Science

for further resources, see
Building Two-Way Bridges: Gender and Science

I want to turn especially to the work of Anne Fausto-Sterling ,
Professor of Biology and Women's Studies @ Brown University
esp. her article "Science Matters, Culture Matters." Circulating Draft. January 2002,

which offers a new model for teaching "science in a social context" and emphasizes the embedded nature of every topic in her course. She begins each topic by having students construct a "knowledge web" (for ex, neural tubes are embedded in matrix of medical/social questions), and ends each one w/ a "web expansion unit," in which the students design collaborative projects: they expand on topics that intersect w/ the main subject matter, starting w/ a place familiar to them, but moving beyond the personal to large cultural issues.....

Fausto-Sterling draws on Bruno Latour's observations about complex stories ("hybrids") in daily papers:, and argues that trad'l science made hybrids disappear ("for a scientist work must be an out of body experience"); she also draws on Emily Martin's two metaphors: the "citadel" vs. a "rhizome" (an underground root), suggesting tht we "have to fence in subject matter to make it manageable, but the fences should be picket or lattice--something the students can see through to the landscape beyond."

big take home lesson: imperfection of science/uncertain nature of knowledge (see also Forms of science)

second take home lesson: the generative power of metaphor, as a way of organizing information

(see George Lakoff, Philosophy in the Flesh

(see also Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach

Let's pause and generate a list of metaphors for our own classroom experiences, (see responses as blackboard photo or as table)

Going a step further now....

to talk not just about encouraging more students to do science, but about changing the nature of science itself, by involving different types of students in it....

II. Diversity and Evolution

In response to Fausto-Sterling, Anne.
"Building Two-Way Streets: The Case of Feminism and Science."
NWSA Journal 4, 3 (Fall 1992): 336-349.

Hubbard, Ruth with Sandra Harding, Nancy Tuana and Sue Rosser.
"Comments on Anne Fausto-Sterling's 'Building Two-Way Streets.'"
NWSA Journal 5, 1 (Spring 1993): 45-82.

Sandra Harding notes
  • the failure of science to show that they are for us, committed to increasing human welfare
  • and the success of science in keeping their potentially most severe critics from becoming interested
  • she suggested thinking about patterns of literacy/interest as indicative of causal relation between women's disinterest in science, and science's disinterest in own social history

Lots of people are DISABLED from participating in science...
and science is disabled thereby....

Ray McDermott and Herve Vareene, "Culture As Disability." Anthropology and Education Quarterly 26, 3 (1995): 324-348.

H.G. Wells, The Country of the Blind (1913)

What about the culture of education (what about the culture of your particular classroom) disables your students (yourself?) in the classroom? In your classroom particularly? Write your thoughts in the institute forum area. (see responses)

III. Intersectionality is Enabling

Beginning in "my" field, 19th c. American Literature, w/

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (1851)

Now marvelously re-written, filling in aspects missing from the old ...

Sena Jeter Naslund, Ahab's Wife, or, The Star-Gazer (1999)

Let's try this re-writing of stories, drawing on our own diversity, celebrating the diversity of the natural world, in science (cf. Paul Grobstein, Diversity and Deviance (1989)):

Read a couple of articles about our "favorite" science-in-the-news event: the arrival of the snakehead.

Now: try to imagine a new story for this fish. In what way might its appearance in the US (hint: like the meteor which cleared the way for the coming of humanity some 65 million years ago) be productive of some NEW thing, some new life form? Post your "new story," your "revised news," in the institute forum area.


Recall your metaphors for your self as teacher, for students and classrooms, and look over those described by others. What new metaphors might you create which might reduce the "disabilities" inherent in your own earlier metaphors? Write about your new metaphors in the institute forum area. (see responses).

To conclude: Fausto-Sterling writes of "our anachronism":

"our imagination fails us: how can we use [our students'] touchstones to give them insights into the things that touch us deeply about the natural world?"

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